Mark 6:14-29 tells the strange story of Salome who danced for Herod on his birthday. Herod lost his presence of mind and promised her any gift she requested. This turned out to be the head on a plate of a man whom he respected as a good man and whose company he liked. There’s no fool like an old fool. Women can stop reading here, you know all this stuff.
How is it that otherwise sensible men can have their heads turned by a woman’s attractive body? Fashions change of course. The chubby ladies of Botticelli have given way to the size zero models of today. One Islander from Papua New Guinea, recording what he looked for in a woman noted “nice thick lips, broad hips and a fat belly”. Indeed beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But why then does it addle his brain?
One solution to protect men (which does not work) is to insist that young women cover their bodies rather more than they would choose to do. Those who insist on this are not only mullahs but also head teachers and mothers. I have heard many such people say that this shrouding will stop young men having impure thoughts. Fat chance!
It is not just young men, but older men who should know better. The Church has from time to time blamed women for tempting men. Pregnant servant girls were frequently dismissed from Christian households for seducing the sons of the family who had used their social standing to abuse them.
Men are said to think about sex every few minutes. I am racking my brains to think of what might fill the other minutes. But let’s remember that most men, most of the time, cope with this without any unwelcome behaviour.
It is not just men’s brains that get scrambled by a passing (or dancing) figure. Half our teenage girls are evidently in a crisis of hating their bodies because they are so far from the perfection they see daily on the TV. This sickness extends to many pre-teens too. How little we understand sex. How little we discuss it. How we pretend that sex education in schools will encourage sexual activity, whereas the many loveless,sexual scenes on TV every night are just freedom of expression. A survey of a “nice” secondary school near here indicates that a quarter of 14-years-olds are currently engaging in unprotected sex. Shall we turn a blind eye?
Our church experiences strange dissonance in relationship to sex. It is something that we need to sort out, as lap-dancing clubs spread down our high streets, as we prosecute prostitutes but not their clients, as we alienate young women by telling them how we want them to look and to behave. We need to overcome our embarrassment and find some way of helping young people to discuss sexual matters. Oh, and older men, act your age and appreciate the love of your wives!